Before people scoff I just wanted to say that the French New Wave is clearly one of, if not the most important film movement in cinema history, and cinephilia as one knows it today probably wouldn not exist if it weren’t for people like Bazin, Godard, and Truffaut, yet there isn’t a single French New Wave that is a REGULAR fixture in top ten lists. Far more attention always seems to be given to films like The Searchers, Vertigo, and Battleship Potemkin. Breathless and The 400 Blows always seem to appear in top 100 lists, but not top ten lists. The highest film on They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They is Breathless at no. 30, and a French New Wave has yet to make the top ten in a Sight and Sound poll.
Not sure I’m ready for an argument about whether Breathless is the 7th best film of all time rather than the 15th. Or that Jules and Jim is the 10th best rather than the 20th.
Here’s something interesting, though: take a look at the ballots of the French critics and directors from the last BFI/Sight & Sound poll:
1.Barry Lyndon (Kubrick)
3.La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
4.Madame de… (Ophuls)
6.The General (Keaton)
7.The Travelling Players (Angelopoulos)
8.Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguchi)
9.White Heat (Walsh)
10.Salvatore Giuliano (Rosi)
3.The Empress Yang Kwei-Fei (Mizoguchi)
4.Fanny and Alexander (Bergman)
6.The Last Laugh (Murnau)
7.The Music Room (S. Ray)
8.My Apprenticeship (Donskoi)
9.Nanook of the North (Flaherty)
10.Our Daily Bread (Vidor)
1.Andrei Roublev (Tarkovsky)
3.La dolce vita (Fellini)
4.In Girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (Debord)
6.A Man Escaped (Bresson)
10.Scenes from a Marriage (Bergman)
. . . only Vincendeau lists even a single film connected to the New Wave, and even then it’s not the films one might expect given the general reputations of Breathless, The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, etc.
I’d say Contempt has just as big a reputation as Breathless, The 400 Blows, and Jules and Jim.
“7.The Travelling Players (Angelopoulos)”
wow ! cool guy :-0
“. . . only Vincendeau lists even a single film connected to the New Wave”
A French guy chose an unconventional chick flick, heh…
Assayas’s list is pretty goddamn boring i must admit.
Then again, i just find him boring in general, so i guess it makes sense :-)
Roughly, sure, but if you refer back to the critics’ and directors’ polls as a whole, Breathless and Jules and Jim outpoll Contempt in each.
(Apologies for the weird formatting problem in the post above, by the way)
“Assayas’s list is pretty goddamn boring i must admit.”
Even the Debord film? He also attached the following comment to his list:
“I did it instinctively, putting down the names as they came to me, then boiling them down to ten, making cabbalistic adjustments I couldn’t begin to explain, let alone justify. The embarrassing result is that there isn’t a single American film even though I’ve seen more American movies I’ve admired than I can remember, and there isn’t a single Asian film even though I consider Mizoguchi, Ozu and Hou Hsiao-hsien to be among the greatest film-makers of any time in any culture.”
“A French guy chose an unconventional chick flick, heh”
Um . . .she’s a she, actually.
Why look for things we possess superabundantly, and how may we avoid the urge to extol the things that seem rare to us and more difficult to acquire?
Charles Baudelaire, L’Œuvre et la vie d’Eugène Delacroix [The Life and Work of Eugène Delacroix] 1863
China’s New Documentary Movement is neglected. If anything the New Wave is overwrought. Most of the genius of that movement came when it was dead and buried.
I agree with Archie. I tend to think the French New Wave is overrated. Yeah, it had it’s moment of influence but there are other movements that are significant. And more to the point, just because the New Wave was influential, doesn’t mean those films are the best around.
“Even the Debord film? "
well that’s only 1/10 isn’t it?
Anyway, the reason i called it boring is not just because it’s predictable, but because i expected a director like him, who has moved around quite a bit and made all sorts of different films, to have a more varied list, that’s all
Thanks for showing us the info on those French critics. Very interesting indeed. It would appear that “cinema du papa” won out after all — at least in the eyes of the French.
Yeah . . . I think he sensed that about his own list, hence the qualifying comment. Without having really researched the individual lists in a comprehensive way, I find that the directors lists tend to be generally sort of bland . . . or, at least, predictable (Tarantino’s).
Anybody want to hazard a hypothesis as to why the New Wave films aren’t more highly regarded by French critics and filmmakers (or, rather, so it would seem from this extremely limited sample)? Robert’s Baudelaire quote almost certainly accounts for part of it, but Bresson and Renoir and Ophuls would seem to me to be “superabundant” enough to be excluded it the same way, yet they get votes.
Breathless and The 400 Blows are not top10 material by any chance.
I certainly don’t disagree with you Santino about the French New Wave in the sense that there are other movements that are equally important, but at the same time I don’t think it’s necessary to bring down one movement in order to prop up another. In other words, favoritism should be avoided. Essentially what you’re saying is that if someone’s favorite film happens to be a French New Wave film, their opinion is inferior. It’s not the fault of the French New Wave itself that its acclaimed at the expense of other cinema movements. It’s more the fault of those who may neglect other movements, but that’s no reason to neglect the FNW, in order to give appreciation to another body of films. Just appreciate both, and I say that because I know many of the people who feel the FNW is overhyped do in fact love many of the French New Wave films, but for reasons I can’t comprehend, people seem to feel a need to disown the films they may love that also get their share of attention in the realm of cinephilia, in order to prop up other more neglected films. I don’t understand why undiscovered gems can’t simply be added to the list of already deservedly acclaimed films, when the filmmakers of these many undiscovered gems probably look up to the already acclaimed directors many disown, in order to prop up these neglected filmmakers.
Not sure why the New Wave films aren’t more highly regarded by the French critics. Maybe they hit too close to home somehow. Or maybe, for these French critics, the New Wave is the “cinema du papa” (object of scorn in closest proximity).
Also Archie and Santino:
I certainly don’t think the French New Wave as a whole is overrated and overhyped. I just think there’s a certain group of films that seem to speak for the FNW as a whole, which received an inordinate amount of discussion (i.e. Th 400 Blows, Breathless, Jules and Jim). Those three films seem to be known the world over, and many who aren’t all that passionate about cinema are even familiar with them, and they seem to represent the French New Wave in an all encompassing manner to those are less learned in cinema. Thus, because of those three films, it would appear those films are overhyped, and I agree those three films are overhyped. Maybe one of them would make my personal top 100-150, but that’s it. Rohmer and Rivette, along with many of Godard’s other films certainly don’t receive an inordinate amount of discussion. For many people those three films seem to represent the New Wave, and many get sick and tired of hearing about them for legitimate reasons, and it can sometimes turn people off from discussion about the French New Wave. Just my two cents.
So . . . maybe the critical approach undertaken at Cahiers by Truffaut et al ultimately wound up being more influential on French film culture than the films they ended up making? And, in an ironic reversal, these films ended up becoming a sort of cinéma de qualité for the next “wave” of French cinephila?
I would say yes, in the case of films like The 400 Blows and Jules and Jim. Don’t get me wrong. I love The 400 Blows, but it is overhyped, as is Breathless, and I suppose the reason films like Pierrot Le Fou, My Night at Maud’s, Two or Three Things I Know About Her, or Celine and Julie Go Boating aren’t regular top ten fixtures is they’re too divisive and tend to acquired tests, unlike say 8 1/2 or Rules of the Game.
ThisLife – I agree with you completely and I don’t mean to be mad at the French New Wave for it’s success and acclaim. In fact, I could care less that other movements get ignored. haha.
I guess I’ve just never been too excited about these films. The movement was popular at the time because it was different and it inspired a lot of filmmakers over here. But looking back, The 400 Blow and Band of Outsiders seem pretty blah to me. And even if I do like them (Cleo from 5 to 7 was enjoyable), I wouldn’t list them as best of all time.
Regarding French critics not liking them, I don’t really know the explanation for that but I will say that I work with a guy who is French and he hates the French New Wave. I think maybe some French people dislike that the New Wave sort of defined French cinema for so long, when there is so much more to French cinema. For me personally, I used to think that all French cinema was like this. It wasn’t until I got older and started studying cinema that I discovered people like Clouzot and Melville and realized the French had so much more to offer.
‘I think maybe some French people dislike that the New Wave sort of defined French cinema for so long, when there is so much more to French cinema.’
I can understand being annoyed by such a situation to a certain extent, but that’s certainly no reason to penalize the films themselves, and besides, I doubt the French people who hate the New Wave are true film lovers. It’s one thing to feel a certain set of films is overhyped at the expense of other, more neglected films that may be just as good, if not better, in some cases, but to lash out and say all of French New Wave cinema sucks, BECAUSE it falsely represents French cinema as a whole is just plain ignorant in my opinion. Sorry.
ha! I’m sure there can be French people (or non-French people for that matter) that are true film lovers who hate the New Wave.
FYI – Melville didn’t like the New Wave.
Alright, maybe what I said was a bit extreme, but I guess all I meant to say is the films themselves shouldn’t be penalized, due to the circumstance of film criticism and film appreciating, if you know what I mean. Also, I’m sure Melville also had other reasons for not liking the New Wave that were unrelated to the quality of the films themselves.
And like I said, I don’t think French New Wave cinema as a whole is unnecessarily placed on a pedestal but just those three films, Breathless, Jules and Jim, and The 400 Blows. And as a result they seem to represent the New Wave in the eyes of many, who either are not familiar with cinema or believe there are films that are just as good, if not better that deserve the sort of attention a film like Breathless has already received. And embracing a random French New Wave film, regardless of which film it is shouldn’t be a sign of inadequate taste. In any case, I’d assume most avid film lovers are sensible enough to realize the French New Wave is not all encompassing, but can also tolerate fellow film lovers enjoying certain New Wave films.
Films like Contempt, Pierrot Le Fou, Vivre Sa Vie My Night at Maud’s, Paris Nous Appartient, and Celine and Julie Go Boating aren’t placed on pedestals, or certainly no more than say L’Avventura, Viridiana, Solaris, Red Desert, and Au Hasard Balthazar are.
Alas, in one sense I would agree with Matt that the ideas and theories spewed out by Truffaut and Bazin are more influential than the subsequent films. Continuing from that, the sensible thing would be not to renounce the importance of the French New Wave, but simply to place it as a significant movement in cinema alongside any other whether it be Czech New Wave, Left Bank, Italian Neorealism, New German Cinema, Korean New Wave, Sub-Saharan African cinema, or what have you, as opposed to placing the French New Wave film movement high and above the others on a pedestal it doesn’t deserve.
I don’t know, it seems to me there are a lot more New Wave films that get attention than just Breathless, Jules and Jim, and The 400 Blows. I feel like Band of Outsiders, Pierrot le Fou, Contempt, and Alphaville also get lots of attention. But sure, every film should be judged on its own and not lumped into some category. I would agree with that.
La nouvelle vague etait une necessite!!!
I don’t think Contempt and Pierrot Le Fou get significantly more attention than say Tokyo Story or L’Avventura all four of which in my opinion receive less attention than Breathless or Jules and Jim
“Or maybe, for these French critics, the New Wave is the “cinema du papa” (object of scorn in closest proximity).”
It’s no lie that most critics of each and one country in the world aren’t always fond of their acclaimed directors or even the abundance of great cinematography of their native land e.g. Italy, Japan, India, Romania and hell, evne in my country that’s a regular issue including with the guy whose film above was picked by one of the critics / auteurs. I’m fairly certain that also occurred and still does in America, from Welles to Cassavetes to Benning..
“Um . . .she’s a she, actually.
Damn you Matt, that’s predictable :P (although Ginette sounds like an original name, hmmm..)
but then, I’m sure engaged Greeks have more to worry about at the moment than the reputations of their cinematographers…
this is easier than getting out into the streets, isn’t it?
Dimitris, seriously, you spend all of your time on this site, like, a shitload of it, and we all know that when you are not here you
“PERSONALLY WANT TO BE ABLE TO BUY BOOKS, MUSIC, FILMS, GO TO THE OPERA, DANCE PERFORMANCES, ART GALLERIES, ROCK CONCERTS, THEATRE AND CINEMA AND NOT JUST BUY A FUCKING 25-EURO DVD.”
so don’t spout off like you’re concerned about your country, especially on a second-tier movie forum, when your countrymen are actually on the streets putting their lives at risk.
I mean, seriously dude.